Lab Members in September 2023

Global biodiversity is changing at an unprecedented pace in response to a multitude of anthropogenic drivers, leading to considerable losses of ecological, economic, and societal benefits of biodiversity and ecosystem functions. Developing science-based solutions in order to minimize these negative impacts requires an in-depth understanding of the distribution, origin, and maintenance of biodiversity.

The Biodiversity, Macroecology and Biogeography group is involved in a variety of research projects that address ecological and biogeographical questions at different scales. Our research aims to document general trends in the spatial distribution of biodiversity, to better understand the underlying processes and to develop knowledge, theory, and tools for applied questions in conservation. To this end, we employ integrative approaches at the interface of macroecology, biogeography, conservation biology, and bioinformatics.

Research projects

The Global Inventory of Floras and Traits (GIFT)

GIFT is an initiative to create a database of regional plant checklists with complete global coverage for large-scale biogeographical and macroecological analyses based on plant species identities and regional species composition. To this end, GIFT includes regional plant species lists based on published and unpublished floras and checklists as well as online databases. At the level of individual plant species, GIFT contains functional traits as well as taxonomic and phylogenetic information. At the level of geographic regions, it additionally contains information on physical geographic, bioclimatic and socio-economic characteristics.
Funding: various sources (since 2009 - )
Contact: Patrick Weigelt, Pierre Denelle, Holger Kreft

Map_caiCai et al., 2023 New Phytologist

Ecological and Socioeconomic Functions of Tropical Lowland Rainforest Transformation Systems (EFForTS)

How can we maintain ecological functions of lowland rainforest and agricultural systems like oil palm and rubber plantations while improving human welfare? The EFForTS CRC990 project in Sumatra (Indonesia) aims to provide high-quality science on this highly relevant issue. In the EFFortTS subproject B06, we aim to quantify the effects of rainforest conversion on plant diversity and ecosystem functioning and to elucidate the underlying mechanisms. To do so, we integrate different dimensions of plant diversity and investigate how plant diversity is affected by conversion of rainforest and land-use changes from local to landscape scales. Furthermore, we are involved in EFForTS-BEE, a long-term biodiversity enrichment experiment in oil palm. The experiment was established in December 2013 by the planting islands of native tree species in a monoculture oil palm plantation. The aim of the enrichment experiment is to analyse trade-offs between ecological and economic functions and to contribute to the development of ecologically improved management concepts in oil palm landscapes.
Funding: DFG Collaborative Research Centre (since 2012 - )
Contact: Gustavo Paterno, Fabian Brambach

EFFORTS_BEEPicture courtesy of Gustavo Paterno, EFForTS-BEE, Indonesia

Multifaceted biodiversity in mountain ecosystems
Mountains are regarded as the perfect laboratories as one can observe how environmental conditions, habitats, and communities change with elevation across short geographical distances. They have been an object of constant study for the last two centuries, however, studies tend to be restricted to taxonomic measures of biodiversity at local spatial scale. In this project we aim to look into multiple environmental and evolutionary hypotheses driving tree taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity patterns in mountains worldwide.
Funding: Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes (2020 - 2024)
Contact: Maria Laura Tolmos

tambopata Picture courtesy of Fabian Mühlberger, Tambopata Reserve, Peru


DynaCom analyses the interplay of regional processes (dispersal, colonization) and local interactions (competition, trophic interactions, mutualisms) to assess the dynamics of community composition on island ecosystems. The research unit addresses both terrestrial and coastal marine communities integrating field observation, a large-scale field experiment, modelling and data analysis.
Funding: DFG Research Unit (since 2018 - )
Contact: Isis Petrocelli

Dinacom Picture courtesy of Thalita Ferreira-Arruda, Frisian Islands, Germany

Landscape restoration in tropical mountain ecosystems

In the project, we examine the linkages between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning resulting from a land use trajectory in páramo landscapes in the Eastern Cordillera of the Colombian Andes. Overall, we address the following questions: I) How does land use trajectory shape different facets of the diversity (taxonomic, functional, phylogenetic, and structural) of vascular plants in three Colombian páramos? And II) How does land use trajectory contour bird diversity (taxonomic, functional, and phylogenetic) in three páramo landscapes in the Andes of Colombia? The Eastern Cordillera of the Colombian Andes is a priority area for conservation and restoration because it is one of the biodiversity and phylodiversity hotspots, in which there is an exceptional concentration of endemic plant and animal species threatened by extinction due to high rates of habitat loss.
Funding: KAAD (since 2022 - )
Contact: Fernanda Cantillo Rodriguez, Nathaly Guerrero Ramírez

37962590_10102079981691814_7260151320600903680_nPicture courtesy of Nathaly Guerrero Ramírez, Colombia

Diversity Facets in a Dry Forest

The different facets of diversity along a precipitation gradient in the Dry Chaco Forest in Argentina are being studied comparing different land uses. We use different approaches combing traditional with new sampling techniques such as plant functional traits, vegetation structural complexity, and multispectral drone images.
Funding: DAAD (since 2023 - )
Contact: Axel Gualdoni Becerra

Chaco Picture courtesy of Axel Gualdoni Becerra, Argentina

Biodiversity monitoring of island ecosystems (BioMonI)

The main objective of BioMonI is to provide unique insights into past, present, and future trends of Essential Biodiversity Variables (EBV) and Essential Ecosystem Service Variables (EESV) on oceanic islands. Specifically, we will (i) elucidate spatiotemporal biodiversity trends including also elusive dimensions of biodiversity, broadening the spectrum of monitoring and conservation by integrating evolutionary and functional perspectives as well as biotic associations; (ii) mobilize existing monitoring data and identify gaps, co-design work-flows to strengthening (existing) monitoring efforts, (iii) develop and apply a harmonized monitoring scheme specifically tailored to the specific needs, challenges and conditions of island biodiversity (iv) make monitoring information easily accessible across archipelagos for stakeholders including researchers, citizen scientists, conservation managers, (non-)governmental organizations and public institutions.
Funding: DFG & Biodiversa+ (since 2024 - )
Contact: Nathaly Guerrero Ramírez, Holger Kreft

IMG_2323_1Picture courtesy of Nathaly Guerrero Ramírez, Azores, Portugal

Past Projects

Diversity Turn in Land Use Science

The Project „Diversity Turn in Land Use Science“ investigates the social, economic and ecological impacts of vanilla cultivation in North-Eastern Madagascar from a transdisciplinary perspective. Within this project we investigates the value of different kind of vanilla plantations and alternative land-uses for biodiversity with a special focus on birds, amphibians and reptiles. By integrating our data with socio-economic findings on yields, work input and land assets of households, we hope to develop recommendations for sustainable land-use in this biodiversity hotspot.
Contact: Dominic Martin

BIOVERA - Exploration and explanation of biodiversity patterns along gradients of climate, soil and disturbance in Central Veracruz, Mexico

BIOVERA aims to assess the influence of anthropogenic disturbances and abiotic factors on the plant diversity patterns along elevations gradients of elevation and forest use intensity on the eastern slopes of Cofre de Perote mountain in central Veracruz, Mexico. The project is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the Centro de Investigaciones Tropicales, Universidad Veracruzana, Mexico, the University of Göttingen and the University of Oldenburg.
Contact: Leticia Monge Gonzáles, Valeria Guzmán

Spatial and Temporal Scaling of Biodiversity and Environment

Environmental conditions and biodiversity both vary across a wide range of temporal and spatial scales and are tightly connected (Stein & Kreft, Biological Reviews). Understanding how environmental conditions and heterogeneity affect the distributions of individuals and species is thus vital for our general understanding of emergent properties at the level of communities such as species diversity or endemism. The main aims of this project are i) to develop and apply novel methods to quantify environmental heterogeneity across spatial and temporal scales taking advantage of novel global environmental data sets, ii) to establish scaling relationships between island area, age, and different dimensions of environmental heterogeneity, and iii) to relate those to macroecological and biogeographical patterns and processes.
Contact: Paola Barajas

Coral islands in West Papua: A model system for functional and taxonomic diversity and the resilience of isolated habitats

The numerous islands of the Raja Ampat archipelago in West Papua (Indonesia) are an ideal model system to study ecological processes and drivers of biodiversity for small, fragmented, and isolated habitats. We use trees to study the effects of area, environmental heterogeneity, and isolation on species composition and functional diversity and how these affect the species-area relationship with special regard to the small-island effect.
Contact: Julian Schrader